In January 2014 Nintendo held its third quarter financial results for investors. In the meeting, President of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata said it would be working on a new platform focused specifically on Quality of Life applications which he referred to as QOL. “What Nintendo will try to achieve in the next 10 years is a platform business that improves people’s [quality of life] in enjoyable ways,” and he noted, “… rather than simply setting health as our theme, Nintendo will also try to expand it in a new blue ocean.” QOL includes Iwata said, “‘learning’ and ‘lifestyle,’ but it is our intention to take ‘health’ as our first step.” In March 2015 Nintendo held a special meeting which announced the joint development of mobile applications with DeNA, a Japanese company with a history of mobile game development. Four months later Iwata passed away.
How much of Nintendo’s QOL plans were specific to Iwata? Would Nintendo continue on with these plans in his passing?
“Pokémon Go – Nintendo’s first breakout hit for mobile – wouldn’t be made by DeNA”
Ironically, after the announcement of joint mobile application development with DeNA, Pokémon Go – Nintendo’s first breakout hit for mobile – wouldn’t be developed by DeNA. Instead, it would be a co-developed by a combination of Pokémon Company (partially owned by Nintendo) and Niantic. A spin-off company of Google, Niantic developed the technology utilized in Pokémon Go’s landmarking system in 2012 with a mobile game called “Field Trip” as well as a few Augmented Reality games.
Pokémon Go tasks players to go out in the real world to collect Pokémon – a first for the game series. It utilizes augmented reality, Location Services and even real life landmarks. It encourages players to socialize in real life in order to more quickly discover Pokémon or gyms. Training gyms can be taken over by competing teams at any time, encouraging players who may have already captured all 150 Pokémon to continue to get outside on their feet. Players can get more Pokeballs to catch Pokémon at Pokéstops around the neighborhood. There is a theme here of encouraging player activity and movement in the physical world.
“In a brilliant move, monetization elements entice players to walk around even more to get the most out of their purchases.”
In a brilliant move, monetization elements entice players to walk around even more to get the most out of their purchases. Players can purchase incense allowing them to more easily find Pokémon, the catch is these are on a time limit. Lures can also have the same effect of producing more Pokémon but Lures are tied to Pokéstops, the result being that it encourages other players in the community to move around to these locations to net the benefits as well.
“Nintendo isn’t seeking to capture the “Gaming Market” with its QOL plans, it’s seeking to capture the populous in general.”
It all could be a fluke of design, but Pokémon GO shows a logical approach to mobile gaming which appears to tie into the Quality of Life platform originally discussed by Iwata in that 2014 investor meeting. Iwata would later expand specifics of the idea in an October 2014 fiscal results meeting to include specifically, a sleep monitoring device. However, it seems that the concept of the “Quality of Life” platform is not specifically related to hardware at all. Looking at a slide from Nintendo’s 2014 announcement of their QOL platform, it’s amazing to see how much that seemingly vague language comes together into a laser focus with Pokémon GO. “I feel that not only can this QOL-improving platform utilize our know-how and experience about video game platforms, but also we can expect it to interact with games and create a synergistic effect,” Iwata said back in that 2014 presentation. Nintendo isn’t seeking to capture the “Gaming Market” with its QOL plans, it’s seeking to capture the populous in general.
Coming soon for Pokémon GO is “Pokémon GO Plus” a device players wear on their wrist which syncs to the game via Bluetooth, it will vibrate and glow to let players know a Pokémon is nearby. Below, is another chart to look at from an October 2014 investors meeting. It’s not hard to imagine Pokémon GO on the left of this chart, the Pokémon GO Plus as QOL device/sensor at the bottom and the NX as a bridge for Pokémon GO tying it all together.
Patents clearly hint at a mobile device of some category for the NX, so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of the same ideas for Pokémon GO applied to NX games. Nintendo was also quick to deny rumors that the NX would be utilizing the Android operating system in mid-2015. But now it isn’t hard to imagine it being Android based to bring it’s mobile offerings to the console without friction.
“Imagine a more social gaming experience not online but in the real world.”
Even thinking about Pokémon GOs Game Design paradigms it’s not hard to see them applied to other IP Nintendo owns. Imagine Pokémon GO’s landmark system applied to Mario Kart with pitstops instead of gyms. Imagine making NX Consoles themselves hubs for players of Nintendos mobile offerings, almost the same way Lures work right now in Pokémon GO. Imagine a more social gaming experience not online but in the real world. Look at the connections happening right now with just this one application of these Quality of Life ideas, now imagine a network of them.
“Compare Nintendo’s first step into Quality of Life gaming applications to that the expansion of VR by other companies in the industry.”
The Quality of Life announcements in 2014 in particular, were met to the chagrin of Nintendo’s hardcore fan base and received their share of mockery in opinion pieces. But now all those strange ideas are beginning to merge with Nintendo’s IP and signature gameplay hooks. In less than a week, Pokémon GO has entered the gaming zeitgeist infecting social media feeds with Pidgey’s in delivery rooms, Pugs on walks discovering Clefairy’s, and Bulbasaur’s in bathroom stalls. These stories only increase exposure of the game. My Twitter feed features numerous holdouts begrudgingly downloading the game to see what the fuss is about. Pokémon GO is fun for a massive casual audience, it’s contagious and healthy for many. Compare Nintendo’s first step into “Quality of Life” gaming applications to the expansion of VR by other companies in the industry. Nintendo has applied game design that rewards exploration in the real world. It is setting an example by encouraging customers to get off their feet, walk around their neighborhood and have fun doing it.